As protests take root in 2015, some are adopting the approach of "uncivil" disobedience. Is it effective?
In the past week, protesters have run-over traditional social taboos by demonstrating during funerals of slain police officers, First Night family celebrations, and even an honor ceremony for a 100-year-old Navy veteran.
Civil disobedience is built on the premise of defying authority. And Americans have a Constitutional right of free speech. But in a few recent cases, protesters are likely harming to their own causes by being inconsiderate and disrespectful of innocents caught in the emotional cross-fire of their actions. says Patricia Napier-Fitzpatrick, president of The Etiquette School of New York in a phone interview.
“This is such a difficult issue,” Ms. Napier-Fitzpatrick says. “Yes, protest, by all means. Make your voices heard, but there is a time and place and that may not be when people are grieving or someone not at all involved with the issue is being honored.”
On Saturday, a ceremony honoring U.S. Navy veteran Dario Raschio, age 100, was held up for 15-minutes after Sen. Ron Wyden (D) of Oregon was interrupted at Portland Community College's Southeast Campus, Oregon Live reports.
More than 100 protesters burst into the room shouting "hands-up, don't shoot!" in reference to the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., last fall. Others cried, "I can't breathe" in reference to the death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man who died in July following a chokehold by a New York City police officer.
Other protesters outside the room beat on the windows and held up signs until the centenarian finally silenced them by crying into a microphone in a shaky voice, “Just give me a chance! Show some respect for the occasion.”
In New York, at a the funerals of two slain New York police officers the men in blue themselves chose to stage a silent protest against Mayor Bill DeBlasio by turning their backs en masse as he spoke the eulogies.
Napier-Fitzpatrick added, “I thought that the way in which Mr. Bratton appealed to the officers was well done. Less turned their backs at the second funeral. They got the message that they needn’t take the focus away from the person who was murdered and put it on their agenda.”
At 5 p.m., roughly 100 protesters gathered in front of the Boston Public Library, dropped to the ground and lay still — a protest known as a “die-in,” meant to mimic the deaths of black men and boys killed by police.
The chant “black lives matter,” a refrain now prominent after deaths in Ferguson, Mo., and New York City, rang in the new year in Boston.
“Institutionalized racism and police brutality hasn’t ended, we need to continue this part of the conversation that everyone’s thinking about, everyone’s talking about, until a change is made,” said Brock Satter of East Boston, who helped organize the First Night action, according to The Boston Globe.
Also according to the Globe, Brandi Artez, of Boston's South End neighborhood, urged the crowd to keep their movement alive. “We have to keep going,” Artez said. “The civil rights movement took 10-plus years.”
Others interviewed in Boston considered the protest inappropriate to the spirit of the event.
“Protest is valuable. However, you lose your credibility and support the more harm you do in the name of a cause," says Napier-Fitzpatrick. “Be respectful, considerate and kind and people will listen to you and respect you all the more.”